Dual event celebrating ‘50 Years of Chicana/o Studies’ at City College draws crowd

The event included a mural unveiling and documentary premiere celebrating the department at the cafeteria on May 13


Muralist Alicia Siu (second from right), English and Chicana/o Studies Associate Professor Norell Martinez (fourth from right), Chicana/o Studies Department Chair Justin Akers Chacon (fifth from right), and other attendees of the May 13 event celebrating “50 Years of Chicana/o Studies” at San Diego City College all pose in front of the new mural in the cafeteria. The event included the unveiling of the mural and the premiere of a new documentary film of the same name. Photo by Kathy Archibald/City Times Media

Kathy Archibald, Enterprise Editor

City Times - Spring 2022This story appeared in the latest print edition of City Times. 

The Chicana/o Studies department at San Diego City College celebrated both the premiere of a new documentary and the unveiling of the cafeteria mural on May 13, each named and dedicated to the same cause – “50 Years of Chicana/o Studies.”

An audience of nearly 100 current and former students and faculty, as well as staff and supporters, gathered in the cafeteria for the event, hosted by Justin Akers Chacon, chair of the department.

City College President Ricky Shabazz introduced the 22-minute documentary, emphasizing the community aspect of community college and expressing gratitude for finally being able to gather in person again.

The documentary, directed and produced by filmmaker Paul Espinosa, included community members speaking about the history of the department, and the strong role it has played in community building.

The film also included the history of student activism at City College, such as the involvement of City students in the founding of Chicano Park.

After the viewing, multiple former students and faculty expressed their appreciation for the support they found within the Chicana/o Studies community at City.

Ymoat Luna, a former City student and current board member of the Centro Cultural de la Raza, spoke to the crowd about the profound impact her experience at City had on her path. 

She recalled the value of international storytellers brought onto the campus such as farmworkers and Indigenous speakers from whom she gained wisdom and inspiration.

Luna invited current students to “continue to make the space your own.”

After the discussion, the audience was invited to a first glimpse of the finished mural, including a drum blessing from Red Warrior drum group.

As audience members perused the story-filled wall, artist Alicia Maria Siu explained her process of developing the mural in conjunction with the whole community, and provided a road map to the dozens of events depicted touching on City’s activist history.

She said the left side of the mural shows the moment when City students showed up to protest in Barrio Logan, clearing the path for Chicano Park.

The two women at the far left, referenced from a Chicano Park Museum photograph of the event, still remain unidentified, Siu said.

She explained how she recreated the scene in which City student Mario Solis interrupted a bulldozer to begin making way for the park.

A portion of the mural in the City College cafeteria is shown, including a bulldozer topped by a man with raised fist, and figures singing, playing guitars and involved in other protests and activities.
A section of the larger mural titled “50 Years of Chicana/o Studies” depicts San Diego City College students involved in the creation of Chicano Park and honors local musicians Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez and Joaquin “Quino” McWhinney, among other references to student activism at City. The mural was unveiled along with the premiere of a documentary by the same name on May 13 in the City cafeteria – long delayed due to COVID-19. Photo by Kathy Archibald/City Times Media.

The surrounding area, composed of musical references, has been completed to include musician and cultural icon Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez, and the Centro Cultural de la Raza, among others influential in the community, she said.

This section also includes a depiction of the former City student, singer and activist Joaquin “Quino” McWhinney, whose son, Jakob McWhinney, City Times Media’s operations manager, will graduate from City in May. Yet another example of the interwoven threads of education, activism and community.

Various quotes, marches, events, demands, sit-ins, causes, inspirations and symbols of resistance such as corn are placed throughout the remainder of the colorful work.

Toward the right side of the mural is a depiction of retired Chicana/o Studies professor Cruz Rangel, who also attended the event, and the handmade sarape sashes he traditionally shared at graduation celebrations.

After the event, Norell Martinez, an associate professor of English and Chicana/o studies at City who spearheaded the mural project, said she looks forward to students finally being able to gather in the cafeteria and enjoy the community space alongside the new mural.

Siu said she hopes students and the campus community feel they belong here.

“It really matters what you see around you,” Siu said. 

“If you change the space, it can empower you to know that you belong.”